Airships, or zeppelins, are a rare sight today, but they were once considered a ground-breaking mode of transport. These huge, gas-filled cylindrical aircraft floated over oceans and cities, carrying out surveillance, advertising and even transporting people. Now, well over a century since they were invented, they may be poised for a comeback, albeit in the form of a substantially scaled down and nimbler modern alternative – a lighter than air (LTA) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) called h-aero.
Csaba Singer is the creator of h-aero and CEO of Hybrid Airplane Technologies, a Germany based startup company focused on developing innovative forms of UAV. Singer’s vision is to create a unique, versatile, wide range and sustainable flight concept that opens up new opportunities for observing and monitoring our planet and improving communication and broadcasting capabilities. The h-aero LTA system is a UAV powered by wind and solar energy, designed for Earth observation, research and communication applications.
At first glance, h-aero looks like a large, elliptical balloon. In fact, it’s a combination of three separate flight concepts – a balloon, helicopter and airplane – drawing from each of their unique advantages to create a lightweight aircraft that delivers speed, endurance and agility.
“If we want to keep flying, we need to do so with regenerative energies, so we’ve found a way to combine the three flight concepts in a new way, using helium for static lift and buoyancy, yet staying as agile as a helicopter or plane,” Singer explained. “What’s more, h-aero can be equipped with solar panels on the hull for autonomous, non-stop flight. Our aim is to be a better alternative to manned surveillance systems and satellites, bringing down costs by an order of magnitude while only using renewable energy.”
Made from fiber composites, canvas and high-density foils, h-aero is defined by its ultra-lightweight construction. It is recognized as one of the smallest payload-carrying balloons, capable of bearing all manner of equipment, targeting a weight of up to 10 kilograms.
“Imagine being able to remotely monitor any place on Earth from the stratosphere around the clock and carry out drought damage measurement and air quality monitoring or support a new era of lower cost and widely accessible internet and communication without burning fuel or creating space debris,” Singer said. “That’s a future we see with h-aero. The advantages of our solution are numerous, including unlimited hours of flight time, reduced noise, increased safety and global access – all with a vastly reduced environmental footprint.”
As Singer works on bringing his vision to life, he and the Hybrid Airplane Technologies team needed to bring in more sophisticated CAD functionality as well as the ability to work from a common environment for seamless data sharing and collaboration. Singer found the 3DEXPERIENCE Cloud platform a perfect fit.
Already a CATIA user from his university days, Singer was keen to take advantage of the latest capabilities in the 3DEXPERIENCE Cloud platform.
“I’ve known CATIA pretty much since the beginning when I studied aerospace engineering at Stuttgart University,” Singer said. “I remember seeing parametric modelling coming in and now I’m excited to explore the collaboration features.”
Hybrid Airplane Technologies uses CATIA to design every component of h-aero and carries out all finite element analysis and structural role simulations in the 3DEXPERIENCE Cloud platform.
“We construct the 3D models, we simulate, we get the results, we compare them to our first assumptions and then we develop the prototype parts,” Singer said. “As we progress, we’ll have a need for all the tools in the 3DEXPERIENCE Cloud platform. It will support our entire project from end to end.”
Working hand in hand with companies like Dassault Systèmes, we have the skills and creativity to show what’s truly possible.
For Hybrid Airplane Technologies, it is critical to have access to a cloud-based solution, both in terms of cost benefits, not having to worry about maintaining a physical server structure, but also for supporting modern ways of working.
“New work is bound by the internet and future technology to make our work life balance better,” Singer explained. “When CAD came, we realized we didn’t need to draw with pens on paper. Now, we’re taking the next step and moving towards managing everything within a digital environment. In the not-too-distant future, we will simulate and refine our manufacturing processes in the virtual world before we rent a physical space, buy the production machines and build our UAVs.”
This level of connectivity in the virtual world will be invaluable as Hybrid Airplane Technologies continues to tap into its global network of partners.
“Our partners, staff and customers are all over the globe,” Singer said. “We can produce a component in Germany and send the data to China to be 3D printed. We need the cloud because we can have one and the same product in the same environment, produced from any location. We won’t have to repeat the work.”
Hybrid Airplane Technologies’ h-aero concept has already earned multiple awards and investment, and was of the first to receive the Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label in recognition of its ability to address critical environmental challenges without compromising economic growth.
“This foundation is, in our eyes, a fully independent and transparent organization with the true intention of making our planet green,” Singer said. “We received the label because of the strength of our invention. We share many things in common with the Solar Impulse Foundation as well as Dassault Systèmes. Working with these companies hand in hand, we have the skills and creativity to show what’s truly possible.”
For Singer, this is just the beginning of what he hopes to achieve with h-aero and the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.
“We’re excited to explore other potential use cases for h-aero, such as for cultural heritage management,” he said. “We’re always evolving, and digital transformation is in our DNA. We’re looking forward to handling all our processes within the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and seeing where it will take us.”
We’re always evolving, and digital transformation is in our DNA. We’re looking forward to handling all our processes within the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and seeing where it will take us.
Hybrid Airplane Technologies is a spin-off of the University of Stuttgart and has developed the patented unmanned flight system h-aero®. The flight concept tackles unsolved challenges on the market for unmanned aerial systems and flies with zero emissions. It combines three long established flight concepts – helicopter, fix wing aircraft and balloon – drawing from each of the respective advantages while overcoming their respective disadvantages. h-aero is optimized to be powered by renewable energy and represents a new way of flying.
For more information: https://h-aero.com/en
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